CJ's Top Tips for Travelling with a Toddler

Some may think it crazy of me to have travelled from one side of the world to the other four times within the first 17 months of having a baby.  As if these long haul journeys were not enough I decided to throw in a few shorter trips here and there, just for the fun of it! 

The first time I flew down under my son was 8 months old and we were flying solo.  There were tears before we boarded the plane, mine not his as I was nervous about how the flight would go and questioning whether or not I was a bad mother for completely turning his world upside down!  We were off to see family and the thought of phoning them to say I couldn’t get on the plane was even scarier than how I imagined the flight would be so I sucked it up and we buckled up!

Before embarking on the mammoth 24 hour flight of fun I thought it would be wise to do a shorter trip to see how we both coped with travelling, after all there is so much to consider that when you are childless you just take for granted.  Getting to the airport, checking in, going through security all take so much longer and to ensure this is as smooth as possible you need to be prepared.  I highly recommend starting with small journeys to ‘test’ the comfort level for you and baby as well as keep stress to a minimum.

When I share my stories, I can see some people have a look of dread come across their faces as they imagine how they would cope.  Yes it is daunting, yes it is challenging yet it is also temporary plus you create so many happy memories with loved ones and teach your child resilience and give them a sense of adventure so I feel it is definitely worth it.

Take away the stress from your next holiday and check out my top tips for travelling with toddlers:-

  1. Get Packing!  I write a list a couple of weeks before departure of all the things I use on a daily basis with bubba.  I record the essentials, his favourite toys plus clothes, towels, bedding, toiletries and start making piles to pack.  By having a clear outline of what you need this reduces worrying if you have forgotten anything
  2. Plan ahead.  All parents know that leaving the house just for a day requires a small bag of everything so when travelling overseas you want to travel as light as possible.  Large essential items such as car seats, prams, cots, high chairs etc can be borrowed from family and friends upon arrival and you can hire almost anything anywhere.  If you are staying for a long period you may even ask your hosts to buy something second hand for the duration of your stay.  Knowing that you have these items in place for your arrival is another stress buster.  
  3. Research food!  Check out the local supermarkets online before you arrive so you know what foods are available which are similar to your little ones’ favourites.  If staying with people ask them to grab a few essentials so you know you have the first day of meals prepared.  This will help to cope with jet lag as the last thing you want to do after a long flight is hunt for baby friendly food.  Nappies, wipes and toiletries are items to also pre-order!
  4. Pack bubba’s favourite and familiar items.  Being out of the normal environment can be upsetting for your child so take toys, books and bedding they are familiar with and where possible try to create a similar home environment and routine to keep them as comfortable as possible.
  5. Pack everything and pack nothing!  The first time I flew long haul I took toys for entertainment that were untouched.  I took far too many outfits and not enough nappies.  When you visit family you often come away with lots of new toys and clothes so travel outbound below your luggage allowance.  In your toddler’s carryon luggage take at least 3-4 changes of clothes and I allowed one nappy for every two hours of travel.  Pack a few interactive toys and perhaps buy them something new that will help keep them entertained for that little bit longer.  There is lot to see on a plane so this also helps and a lively toddler loves walking up the aisle and checking out the stairs.  Of course always ensure they are safe and not disrupting other passengers,
  6. Allow more time.  Everything just takes longer and the last thing you want to do is feel stressed about rushing.  Going through security will take longer as milk and food will be scanned so pack these separately and ensure they are easy to access.  Take advantage of boarding first so you can get settled in your own time.
  7. Tire them out!  Travel close to their normal sleep times but do take into account they will get overtired with the new stimulation so be patient.  When in transit let them wonder around and stretch their legs.  Some airports even have family areas where they can play and you can relax.
  8. The biggest thing you can do is relax, approach the journey with a positive attitude and enjoy the adventure with bubba.  Don’t worry about what other passengers are thinking, ask for help from crew when you need it and take assistance when offered.  Give your little one lots of love and cuddles as they will be confused and need reassurance and when you find yourself feeling stressed just take 3 big deep breaths and remind yourself this is not permanent!
Our most recent adventure comprised of 8 flights in 7 weeks, crossing the globe and visiting 3 countries so whilst I now feel confident and comfortable flying so far, I am in no hurry to do again anytime soon.  Everyone will ask you how baby travelled yet it’s the jet lag after that is tougher and for this I only have one tip …….. sleep when they do!!